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Deciding who to tell about your cancer and what to tell them will involve some difficult and important choices.
You might not want or need to tell anyone about the cancer. But you may find telling people helpful in lots of ways.
When you’re self-employed, other people may rely on you to deliver your goods or services, and to pay for theirs.
They may need to know that you have cancer. You’ll have to balance the impact of the cancer and your feelings about telling people with the needs of your business. For example, if the cancer affects your work in any way, your insurance could become invalid if you don’t tell your insurer about it.
On the other hand, some people may not need to know, and it’s your choice whether to tell them or not.
While it can be hard to tell people about the cancer, it can mean they’ll be able to give you support, both practically and emotionally. If you can, it may help to take some time to think about the pros and cons of telling people. The following table may help you decide what to do.
Reasons to tell people about your cancer
Reasons to limit what you say
It may help to put yourself in the other person’s place, and try to imagine what their concerns and reactions might be. Then you can be ready with some suggestions or information, which may help deal with any worries they have.
We have information on talking about your cancer|, which you may find helpful.
Will you be okay?
That's a shock. What do I say now?
Will you be able to do the work? And will it be on time?
Will the work be the same standard?
What happens if our agreement doesn't work out?
What are my health and safety responsibilities? (If you work on their premises or are a sub-contractor).
Will you be able to pay me? Will it be on time?
What are my alternatives?
When will things get back to normal?
Can you meet your payments? How? When?
Are you now a higher credit risk?
What are my duties to the bank and my legal responsibilities?
What will happen if you can't make payments?
What alternative arrangements could be made?
Does this mean the business will close down?
Will you be able to pay me?
Will my workload increase or decrease, and can I cope with that?
We have more information for people who are talking to someone with cancer|.
Everyone has different ways of communicating. Some people naturally like to talk about their thoughts and feelings, while others are quite private. Cultural differences matter, too.
If you do decide to tell someone about your cancer, these tips may help:
You can decide who to tell, what to tell them and how much you want them to know. Ask people to respect your privacy and make it clear if you want them to keep anything to themselves. Be aware that this might put them in an awkward situation, though. If you have a business partner, it might be easier or more appropriate for them to tell the people who need to know. It may not be fair to ask an employee to tell others about your situation, but make sure they know how to respond and who to turn to for advice if anyone does ask questions.
As with any big decisions at this time, you may want to talk to someone you trust and ask for their opinion before you go ahead. You can ask a professional adviser, such as your accountant. Make sure you have important conversations when you are at your best and be clear what your goals are before you talk to them.
You may find it helpful to watch some of our cancer in the workplace videos|.
Content last reviewed: 1 April 2012
Next planned review: 2014
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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